James Christie 10 M.Div. on mission to support Ugandan children

It was five years ago that James Christie ’10 M.Div. discerned a call to ministry while recovering from malaria at a hospital in Uganda.  That call brought him to Yale Divinity School to study for an M.Div. degree, and in August Christie will come full circle when he travels back to Uganda to continue his work with at-risk children at Hope for African Children Ministries

ChristieHACM was founded by Makerere University student Keneth Kiyija in January 2009, six months after Kiyija had life-saving heart surgery in the United States that was arranged by Christie’s home church, The Community (UCC) Church of Mill Valley, CA. 

Christie will be in Kabuwoko, Uganda, where HACM is based, Aug. 13-24, and he has rounded up almost a dozen Yale undergraduates interested in visiting HACM over the July 10-11 weekend.  HACM provides for the basic needs of 19 orphans and at-risk children and also runs a mentoring program for children in the Kabuwoko area.

“The goal of the trip,” says Christie, “is to create lifelong relationships between Keneth, the Yale students, and the children.  The Yale students, many with future careers in international development, will not only gain firsthand experience in the field but will also be inspired to use their energy and talents to fight global poverty.  Additionally, the students will become advocates for HACM as it grows.”

Some of the Yale undergraduate students who plan to visit HACM are involved this summer with two other projects, both based in Kampala, Uganda, which is a two and one-half hour drive from Kabuwoko.  One is a microfinance project sponsored by the Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales (AIESEC). The other is the Undergraduate Career Services Bulldogs International Internship program, which provides internships this summer in 16 cities around the world as students explore various career options.

One of the AIESEC students, Kate Aufhauser, a Yale college undergraduate who just completed her freshman year, said of her plans to visit HACM, “My interest is in U.S. development assistance abroad and I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to witness an international organization at work in Uganda, especially one that does something so important.

“Anyone who comes to Uganda knows that the social and economic problems related to the HIV/AIDs epidemic are enormous, and the mission of HACM in helping children affected is infinitely important at this time.”

Another Yale undergraduate AIESEC intern who plans to make the trip to HACM, Christian Nwigwe, also in the Class of 2013, said his interest in Africa is to help alleviate some of the inequities he has seen in Uganda and Nigeria, the home country of his father.

“In both Uganda and Nigeria I see a huge disparity of wealth,” said Nwigwe. “I feel something needs to be done about this and many other things in certain African countries and have been planning to do something to help out.  In short, this is why I’m interested in Africa.”

Joan Gass, who will be a Yale junior in the fall, is spending the summer in Tunisia but will be making a trip to HACM.  She met Kiyija last summer while interning with AIESEC in Uganda and said she hopes to establish an undergraduate organization at Yale that will partner with HACM.

Christie plans to write a children’s book about HACM, the orphans, Kiyija, and the trip to help teach children about global poverty.

Christie had contracted malaria while teaching creative writing at a secondary school in Bulenga, Uganda.  In a graduating student profile posted on the YDS web site, Christie recalled, “Riots broke out while I was hospitalized, and I was understandably terrified. Yet, even though the Ugandan army was shooting tear gas at people, my neighbors braved the streets to be with me in the hospital.  The love my Ugandan neighbors showed is the most eloquent communication of the Christian gospel I have ever received. They embodied for me God’s unconditional love, and I knew I wanted to be a minister.”

Christie met Kiyija shortly after his hospitalization, and several years later a task force at Christie’s home congregation began exploring ways to help Kiyija overcome a congenital heart condition.  Ultimately, the church arranged for him to have life-saving surgery through the California Pacific Medical Center.